THE SECRET SCROLL
The dust is settling after the book launch of The Secret Scroll but there are still more wonderful things to look forward to. The write-up in the Alton Herald has been delayed this week so our fingers are crossed for early December. Then there’s the ITV report. That too has been delayed and we eagerly await its transmission this week. It will be wonderful for the children to see the results of all their hard work televised for everyone to see.
The Alton branch manger of Waterstone’s has invited the children in to promote their book which is really kind of Sheena Allardyce. Perhaps we can persuade the children to put on their Roman costumes for one last time. We look forward to our visit there and to spending time with children’s specialist (and snail-lover) Kirsty.
The Secret Scroll made the front page of the Alton Post Gazette to everyone’s delight. I picked up a whole bundle of the newspapers and have passed them out to the children and their parents. It was an extra surprise for them.
ALTON CONVENT SCHOOL
I spent a lovely day with the nursery up to Year 6 children and their teachers at the Alton Convent during their Book Week. It’s always fun for me to be the visiting author for the day in any school, but there was an added surprise for me. I met the lovely Val Wilding and her daughter (whose son is at Eggars with my daughter, Amy: another coincidence).
With the younger children I talked more about the snails and a little bit about story-writing. With the older children I talked about how we began to write as a family growing up with the gift of an African land snail, what it takes to publish a book and the problems children can experience with writing their own stories. So many seem to get so far and then get stuck, even if they have done a little bit of planning.
Speaking of planning I showed the older children my original planning sheet for Snail Trail. It’s a scruffy piece of A4 paper. It’s got the days of the week written on the top left-hand side, followed by hand-written notes of what action should take place in the story and on which day. It’s got three columns on the bottom half of the page. Each column has a heading: beginning, middle and end. Under each heading there are seven chapters. This sheet was my working sheet. It was stuck to my computer with a long piece of tape for weeks. It helped me to write and to finish my story. There are lots of crossings out on it. It was my working draft. Without it I’d have got stuck before I’d reached the middle part like so many children seem to. I hope the children remember my scruffy piece of paper and that it helps them to plan their stories before they sit down to write.
I returned to the Convent to sign Snail Trail books later this week.
Thank you to Charlotte, Sienna and Rebecca for looking after me so well on the day and to Anne Wilson, Director of Studies, for organising my visit. Thanks to Sienna for the photographs – the sheet is on my noticeboard: your smiling faces look down at me and watch me as I write. I have been invited to your Carol Service and have accepted the invitation so perhaps I’ll bump into you then.
Amy and I are judging the colouring competition today so …. watch this space for competition winners. I know it’s going to be tough because I can see there are many excellent ones. I will e-mail Anne with the results then post them on my blog.
I returned to an old haunt, Wootey’s, just up from the Convent, last week and gave talks to mixed groups of Years 3 to 6 about book writing, publishing and the lifecycles of snails. Everyone was so welcoming it was a real pleasure returning to Wootey’s. I met the new Headteacher, Heather Clarke: and saw so many familiar faces, teachers and pupils alike, it’s always a lovely experience for me.
It was interesting for me to hear that Years Five and Six children continue to struggle with descriptions of setting and characters.
Problems with Characters and Settings
I hear this a lot at many different schools. I try to explain in my visits that it is much easier to describe things that are known. We began to write as a family because my children grew up around African land snails. It was easy to describe what a giant snail might be like because we had real ones at home to watch. It was easy to describe our characters because most of those in our book are based on real people with a bit of added extras to make them our own. Our books are based on real places – Selborne and Newton Valence. We know these places well. We go up to Selborne Common. We sit there and write. We write about what we can see, hear and smell. It makes our descriptions alive and therefore more credible.
Write About What you Know
I wish I could write about wizards and goblins and make those descriptions believable; but I just know I can’t. I would get stuck! Write about what you can see, about people you know and about things you can explain and 1. you will find it easier to write and 2. your writing will become more believable. The end result is you will finish up with a piece of writing people can identify with. It will give your story credibility.
In the meantime, I wait to receive your competition entries, Wooteys, and we’ll see if anyone wants a snail before Christmas.
CHAWTON SCHOOL SUPPORT GROUP FUND-RAISER
On Thursday evening I took some books along to the Chawton School Support Group at Chawton Village Hall. Again I saw many familiar faces. Our large snail, Bob, with the beautifully patterned shell, was very popular and the third book in the snail series, Snail Park, proved very popular.
But we had another coincidence: the stallholder next to me, Julian Starmer-Smith, was telling me he’d been rescued from a very muddy Selborne School field the previous week. He was trying to find out who the man was. It told him it was my husband, Pip. Pip had returned home drenched to the bone that day and very unhappy he’d been unable to help a couple and their vehicle stuck in the mud. It’s a small world indeed and gives me yet another real-life happening I could use in a book.
ROPLEY VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS FAYRE
The next day it was the turn of Ropley Victorian Christmas Fayre at Ropley Village Hall where we took a table in the small hall. Bob the snail performed well again and we had much interest in The Secret Scroll book.
To the girls from Perins, I’m about to judge the snail competition, so any day now there’ll be a posting here on the winning entry! Not sure your mums would be too happy about any of you winning a snail! Good luck to the others who entered – Amy will have the final say because she can be totally independent because she was not there on the night!
Louise Walden, a friend of Amy Cox from Four Marks, was there with her lovely daughter. She very kindly invited me to give a talk to the Brownies next year so I’m looking forward to that with much anticipation. I have seen Louise and her daughter round and about and they are keen snail book supporters.
One very kind gentleman gave £1.01p towards the next gifted and talented project at Selborne School and there has been much interest in it. I know £1.01 is a small amount. It’s someone’s change. But it’s the thought that counts. If people were to carry on making donations I could look at helping not just the gifted and talented. In fact that’s where my thinking is going following the publication of The Secret Scroll and there have been discussions about this at Selborne already. I am thinking of putting a snail in a tank up for auction to raise money for another book project with children but I’ve got to think that one through yet. Your own thoughts would help here.
ALL SAINTS, TILFORD
I wonder how the children got on with the colouring competition after my visit and wait to hear from Julie Campbell. Thank you, Callum for your Rocket Scruncher competition entry. We love the ‘face’ you have given it. You have made your own character out of it. How lovely. We hope to announce the competition winner before Christmas.
BOB, BOB AND BOB
And the snails? Well, as many of you know we tend to call them all Bob, apart from the odd Gary! Well, they are not asleep yet. They say it’s going to be a mild winter. This will only confuse the snails, so it means they might not go into hibernation just yet. African land snails can hibernate for more than three months. The minute it turns cold you can be sure they’ll dig deep down in the soil, go into their shells and close their silvery, slimy door.
BENTLEY PRIMARY SCHOOL
Talking of slimy doors, does anyone remember that amazing moment at Bentley Primary School? I was holding up a snail that had gone into hibernation. It was spring. Its silvery front door was firmly shut. Then, because the classroom was lovely and warm and it was coming to the end of winter, the snail decided to wake up. I held up the snail, on its back, and we all watched as the foot of the snail began to emerge, its silver crust lying straight across its body like the top on a mushroom! That has only ever happened once.
This blog entry is a long one. It covers a very busy week and is written before another busy one begins. Amy and I are now going to judge the competition entries from Alton Convent and the Ropley Fayre. It’s Sunday morning. The boys are at rugby. The house is quiet. Let the judging commence.